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Fabulous Fiber for Better Health

Fabulous Fiber for Better Health

Written By: Elizabeth Fay, MS, RD, CNSC

Registered Dietitian, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician

 

Let’s talk about the benefits of fabulous fiber! Fiber is an amazingly under recognized nutrient, but what is it? Fiber is a carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as apples, oatmeal, flaxseeds, nuts and beans. Soluble fiber helps to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, by forming a gel-like material in the gut. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole wheat bread, carrots, brown rice, lentils, and barley. Insoluble fiber helps to promote stool bulk, which eases constipation and makes going number two that much easier! We are still learning so much about the wonderful benefits of fiber, but did you know these fun facts about fiber?

  • Fiber helps to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • Fiber can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease
  • Fiber may be associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer
  • Fiber keeps you full longer
  • Fiber intakes has been associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer
  • Fiber increases stool bulk to make going to the bathroom easier
  • Fiber helps to alleviate constipation
  • Fiber is associated with a decreased risk of inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, and appendicitis
  • Fiber produces anti-inflammatory compounds
  • Fiber helps to maintain normal blood sugar levels
  • Higher fiber intakes may promote weight loss or prevent weight gain

 

How much should you eat?

Did you know that both children and adults can benefit from fiber in their diet? Here are the current minimum recommendations for fiber intake for children and adults. Some people may benefit from greater amounts than these recommended intakes. When adding more fiber into your diet, it’s important to take it slow and add more fiber over a few days or weeks and ensure you drink plenty of fluid.

 

Children 1-3 years: 19 grams/day

Children 4-8 years: 25 grams/day

Children 9-13 years: 26-31 grams/day

Adolescents 14-18 years: 26-38 grams/day

Adults 19-50 years: 25-38 grams/day

Adults 51 years and older: 21-30 grams/day

Pregnancy: 28 grams/day

Breastfeeding: 29 grams/day

 

How can you incorporate more fiber into your meals and snacks?

The best way to increase your fiber intake is from the foods your eat, instead of turning to fiber supplements. Check the ingredients list on grain foods, baked goods, and processed foods to see if the words “100% whole grain” or “whole” are listed before the type of grain. These words indicate that a whole grain makes up the product. Unfortunately, other non-whole grains called “enriched” grains can make up the remaining ingredients of foods like bread, crackers, pasta, cookies, and pretzels. Scan the whole ingredient list to see exactly what’s in your food.

Fruits and vegetables are naturally high in fiber. Fiber in fruits and vegetables is found in both the flesh and the skin, so try keeping that peel on your apple or keep the skin on your baked potato to maximize your fiber and nutrient intake. Aim to eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables each day to maximize your fiber intake from whole food sources. Examples of whole food fruits and vegetables include apples instead of apple sauce, and tomatoes and celery instead of vegetable juice.

As for animal-based protein foods, meat, poultry, eggs, and fish, do not contain fiber. However, you can find fiber in other plant-based protein and dairy foods such as nuts and beans. Try adding black beans, edamame, or chickpeas on top of your salad. Spread refried beans or hummus on your sandwich to add fiber and flavor. Foods in the dairy group are similar. Dairy milk and cheese do not contain fiber, but some plant-based dairy alternatives such a soy milk and almond yogurt can provide some fiber, but in small amounts.

 

Here are some examples of different foods and their fiber content:

Food

Serving Size Fiber (grams)
Chia seeds 2 Tablespoons 8
Lentils, cooked ½ cup 7.8
Refried beans, canned ½ cup 6.1
Pear 1 medium 5.5
Apple, Gala 1 medium 4
Carrots, raw 1 cup chopped 3.6
Strawberries, raw 1 cup 3
Prunes 5 prunes 3
Quinoa ½ cup 2.6
Broccoli, raw 1 cup chopped 2.4
Corn flakes cereal 1 cup 1
Italian bread 1-ounce slice 0.6
White rice ½ cup 0.5
Saltine crackers 5 crackers 0
Beef sirloin 3 ounces 0
Fat free milk 1 cup 0

Chicken breast

3 ounces

0

When it comes to choosing high fiber foods, reading the food label can also be an extremely useful tool. Your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can review label-reading tips during your nutrition consultation to help you choose the most fiber-rich foods for you.

 

References:

  1. “Fiber.” NutritionFacts.org, nutritionfacts.org/topics/fiber/.
  2. “Fiber.” The Nutrition Source, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 6 June 2018, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/.
  3. Higdon, Jane, et al. “Fiber.” Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, 2012, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/fiber.
  4. USDA Food Composition Databases. USDA, ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list?home=true.

Nutrition Diving Deeper: Macronutrients

Nutrition Diving Deeper: Macronutrients

Written by: Elizabeth Fay, MS, RD, CNSC

Registered Dietitian, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician

 

Macronutrients are the group of nutrients that provide us with energy throughout our day. The three macronutrients in our diet include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These three nutrient categories are essential in our diet to provide us with balanced nutrition and energy. Depending on lifestyle factors, genetics, and medical conditions, we all require varying amounts of each macronutrient, but in the end, we cannot live without any single macronutrient category. Let’s discuss each macronutrient, their impact on the body, and how much we may need every day.

Carbohydrates provide us with high energy substrate and are the preferred fuel for the body, including the brain. Our muscle and liver cells use carbohydrates in the form of glucose and these sites store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. When our glycogen stores run low, our body can break down fat storage for fuel or utilize our muscle tissue (which is our body’s protein pool) as a source of energy. Of course, we want to preserve our muscle tissue in our body and avoid our metabolism from shifting its use of carbohydrates as fuel to our muscles as fuel. Some symptoms of inadequate carbohydrate in the diet can be seen as low blood sugar, decreased energy, bad breath, nausea, and constipation. Carbohydrates are found in all 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Many people think of grains as rich carbohydrate sources, but fruit, starchy vegetables, beans, legumes, yogurt, and milk are all great sources of carbohydrate. No matter what the food group, carbohydrates are referred to as complex or simple. Complex carbohydrates offer starch and fiber, while simple carbohydrates provide sugar. Starch and fiber help slow down our digestion, keep us feeling full for longer, help to reduce our cholesterol, and maintain blood sugar control, so choosing complex carbohydrates is a healthy choice. No matter what the type of carbohydrate, each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories. When looking at a Nutrition Facts Label, you will see Total Carbohydrates printed. Total carbohydrates will be listed in grams and nested beneath this category, you will find Dietary Fiber and Total Sugars. Under Total Sugars, the Nutrition Facts lists how many grams of those sugars were added to the product under Added Sugars. This is important to take note of because the term “sugar” usually brings a negative thought to mind. However, sugar naturally found in fruit provides different nutritional benefits than added sugars in soda. General carbohydrate recommendations are 45-65% of total calories. For example, on a 2,000 calorie meal plan, the recommendation would be 225-325 grams carbohydrate per day. If you are active, you may require the upper end of this range, whereas if you are trying to control high blood sugar, you may aim for a lower goal within this range. Talk with your Registered Dietitian to determine your individual carbohydrate needs.

 

Protein is an essential macronutrient for development. Protein is made up of single amino acids, all of which the body uses in different ways. The body can make some of these amino acids on its own, but 9 of the 20 amino acids must be consumed in the diet. Unfortunately, our body doesn’t have a storage pool for protein, like it does for carbohydrates. We must consume adequate amounts of protein on a regular basis to meet our protein needs. If we consume more protein than we need one day, then the protein is converted to fat as excess energy and stored as fuel for later use. If we do not consume enough protein on a regular basis, we will continue to fall short and we may experience symptoms of hunger, muscle loss, edema/swelling or fluid retention, hair loss, inadequate growth, and decreased strength. Protein is found in all 5 food groups as well, but its richest sources are in the protein, dairy, and grains food groups. Protein foods are rich in protein as demonstrated by its food group name, but a variety of foods in this food group may surprise you. Both animal- and plant-based foods are excellent sources of protein. Animal-based protein examples are common, such as fish, beef, and poultry. Plant-based foods rich in protein include beans, nuts, soy, and seeds. Not all 20 amino acids are found in every protein food, so eating a variety of protein-rich foods helps to ensure adequacy. Just like carbohydrates, each gram of protein provides 4 calories. On the Nutrition Facts Label, Protein is lised in grams. General nutrient recommendations for protein are 10-35% for adults. As an example, a 2,000 calorie meal plan would recommend 50-175 grams of protein per day. Very active adults and pregnant women may aim for the higher end of this protein range, whereas adults with chronic kidney disease not yet receiving dialysis may restrict protein to the lower limit. Discuss your individual protein needs with your Registered Dietitian.

 

Fat completes our discussion of macronutrients and this nutrient group is vital, despite its often overlooked benefits. Our body requires that we consume adequate fat in our diet for normal development, to maintain skin integrity, optimize brain health, and to use as an excellent energy source. Fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient. For every gram of fat, 9 calories are provided. There are certain types of fat that are essential in the body, because just like some amino acids, the body cannot make these specific fats. There are many types of fat in the diet, including saturated, trans, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. These different types of fats can have both healthful and unhealthful nutritional impacts on the body. The least healthful types of fat are saturated and trans, therefore it is recommended we reduce intakes of these types of fats. More healthful options are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats to optimize heart health. Fat is a rich energy source and if we consume too much fat than our body requires, then our body optimizes this intake and stores it as a fat reserve in the body. This fat reserve is called adipose tissue. It’s important that we find an adequate balance to meet our fat needs just right.

For those who consume a fat free or very low fat diet, signs and symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency include scaly skin, suboptimal growth, and delayed wound healing. Recommendations for fat intake are between 20-35% of total daily calories for most adults. On a 2,000 calorie meal plan, recommended fat intake would be 44-78 grams per day of total fat. Monitor your fat intake by reading the Nutrition Facts Label. Just like carbohydrates, Total Fats are listed on the label and then subdivided into the different types of fat within the product. Saturated fat and trans fat will always be listed on the food label, but manufacturers may choose to include the amount of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats for additional information. Fat is found in all 5 food groups, but in very little amounts in most fruits, vegetables, and grains. Fat is found in many foods in the protein and dairy food groups. Heart healthy, fat-rich foods include nuts, seeds, and avocados. Discuss your own fat requirements with your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian.

 


Consistency, Reminders, Intention

Consistency, Reminders, Intention

Written By: Elizabeth Fay, MS, RD, CNSC

Registered Dietitian, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician

 

Making any behavior change requires intention and consistency to achieve our goals. Any new change that you set to accomplish in your life will require a new habit to be formed. Of course, we want to achieve our goals as quickly as possible, but we also want them to be safe, long-lasting, and achieve the outcomes we intend. When looking to make changes in your nutrition, fitness, or wellness lifestyle, starting with a habit is key.

Research shows that it takes approximately 66 days to start a new habit and stick with it. This is quite a bit of time to allow ourselves some grace as we may forget our new habit until it becomes routine. Knowing up front that it will take some time to create a habit, helps to set the ground for realistic expectations. For example, say your new goal is to incorporate at least 1 fruit and 1 vegetable at every meal. Evaluating where we are starting at, we notice that we currently only eat 1 fruit at lunch and 1 vegetable at dinner. We have room to make improvements with our nutrition and we find ourselves eager to get working towards this goal. First, you may plan out your meals and choose fruits and vegetables ahead of time that you intend to incorporate in your meals. Having a plan is a great way to follow a path to your goal. Of course, life doesn’t always go as planned, so having back-up options available is a great idea. You may keep a banana, orange, or raisins at your desk at work to have as back-up in the event the cafeteria doesn’t offer a fruit or vegetable option that you like one day. You may keep a bag of pre-washed, ready-to-use spinach in the refrigerator to quickly add to sandwiches or prepare a side salad for quick, last-minute weeknight meals. For those times when you are attending a birthday party or cookout, you may plan to have your fruit or vegetable as a snack after the get-together in the event that fruits and vegetables are not offered. Due to the time commitment involved with forming a habit, give yourself flexibility with establishing your routine.

Once you have intention set, it’s important to have cues and reminders set to keep us on track. Reminders help to cue us on the behavior change we’d like to see. Let’s take our fruit and vegetable example again. If at every dinner, you serve your protein and grain on the right side of the plate (instead of the center), then there will be an open area to be filled on the left side of the plate, perhaps reminding you to fill that plate with at least 1 fruit and 1 vegetable. Some people benefit from visual cues upon an action. For example, if you pack your lunch daily for work or school, you may put a sticky note near where you store your lunch bag. Every time you go to get your lunch bag to pack, you’ll see the sticky note reminding you to double check your lunch and if it includes at least 1 fruit and 1 vegetable. If you typically make oatmeal for breakfast, you may put a sticky note on the oatmeal box or microwave to include a fruit or vegetable. Other people prefer to stay digital, so setting reminders on your phone at the time you go to lunch every day, or the time you typically eat or prepare dinner is another great reminder method! Another option is to include others. Tell your spouse, roommate, or colleague about your goal, and recruit them to help keep you on track. Consider your route. Review the route that you take and evaluate if another route would help you meet your goals. If you typically drive home and stop at a particular fast food location that offers limited fruit and vegetable options, consider driving another route home to break the habit. Think of other restaurant options that may better help you meet your goals, or skip the fast food altogether and plan to prepare your meal at home. If you’re headed to the workplace cafeteria, see if you can walk first by the fruit and vegetable station instead of the vending machine to remind you of your goal. Be forgiving of yourself if you forget to meet your habit even after seeing the reminder. Feel free to make adjustments to your reminder locations, times, and methods.

Keep your intention at the forefront of your mind. When we stay invested in our goals, we’re more likely to follow our cues and reminders to form the habits we need in order to achieve our goals. Review why you set your goal to begin with. Reflect on the accomplishments you’ve achieved along the way. Some people prefer to see it visually, so feel free to create a calendar or schedule that marks your achievements. Create a calendar with breakfast, lunch, and dinner written on every day. Every time you include 1 fruit and 1 vegetable at a meal, give yourself a checkmark or a sticker!
In the end, you’ll have compiled a number of achievements that you can reflect on. These achievements will help you stay motivated along the way.

 

References:

Lally P, van Jaarsveld CHM, Potts HWW, Wardle J. How are habits formed: modelling habit formation in the real world. Euro J Soc Psychol. 2010;40:998–1009.


Setting SMART Goals

Setting SMART Goals

Written By: Elizabeth Fay, MS, RD, CNSC

Registered Dietitian, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician

 

When changing your lifestyle habits, setting goals are a great way to create markers for yourself to strive for and evaluate your achievements. Goals are a great way to stay motivated, keep on track, and accomplish bucket list objectives. Working towards a goal or accomplishment helps to keep you focused and stick with new plans. Plus, at the end of achieving a goal, you gain the sense of success and gratification. In addition, once you achieve one goal, it becomes easier to follow it up with a second goal, and so on! You gain confidence that you are able to achieve milestones, which keeps you motivated to accomplish other challenges. Looking back on your achieved goals helps you feel empowered and inspired to continue making progress.

 

When making goals, it is helpful and important to follow the acronym “SMART,” which stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. We will walk through this acronym, giving specific examples of how to best set up your SMART goals.

 

Starting with Specific, we want to create goals that are detailed and precise. When setting our goals, ensuring that the achievement is specific, helps to us to narrowly focus on that goal. A specific goal example is the following: “I will run 1 mile.” By specifically stating that the goal is to run and the distance is 1 mile, we know where to focus our attention and efforts for a concentrated endpoint. A nonspecific goal example would be “I will exercise.” This can be loosely interpreted. If ultimately, we want to be running at the end of an exercise plan, then we will want to focus on running and exercises to help us get better at running. We may choose to dance, box, ski, and swim if we have a generic goal of “I will exercise.” Ultimately if we want to run 1 mile but our goal is not specific, then we may miss the importance of practicing running and other complimentary activities.

 

Next, our goal should be Measurable. Having a measurable outcome(s) is important when we evaluate our accomplishments. Back to our running example, “I will run 1 mile”, the distance of 1 mile helps to add a measureable component to the goal. A goal example without a measureable component would be “I will run.” Without the distance, we have no gauge on our progress to our goal. We can better divide the training into chunks. Perhaps we’ll start with walking ½ mile, then a full mile. We may follow it up with jogging ¼ mile and walking the remainder, then slowly increasing our jogging percentage. Our final training stretch can be increasing our pace within that mile, ultimately getting to our own comfortable running pace and consistently completing a mile.

 

Following Specific and Measureable, we want our goals to be Achievable. This is a great way to ensure that your goal is accomplishable in order to feel proud and progressing on your ways to behavior change. Choose goals that allow you to feel challenged, but also allow the ability for you to reach such goals. When setting goals, look to have your goals be ambitious, but not outrageous. Let’s revisit our running goal. If someone has never run before, then running 1 mile may be an achievable goal to work towards. An unachievable goal example for someone who has never run before may be, “I will run a marathon in a week.” This goal is likely far fetched for someone who has never run before. By choosing a more practical goal, such as running 1 mile, you will likely feel more motivated to achieve this goal as you make progress.

 

Rounding out our SMART goals includes Realistic. Both Achievable and Realistic aspects of your goal go hand-in-hand. When setting your goal, make your goal truthful and accurate. Be honest with yourself and what is an achievable goal that does not set yourself up for failure. Back to our unrealistic example to run a marathon, starting with such an unattainable goal sets you behind. Having a more realistic goal to run 1 mile is still challenging, but sets an achievable accomplishment. Think forward on your calendar as well. If your goal is to ride your bike every night, but you work until 8:00pm and you find nights after work are already difficult to fit everything in, you may choose to modify your goal to include bike rides in the morning or on the weekends.

 

Finally, Timely completes our SMART goal acronym. Ensure that your goal has a timely component to keep yourself on track. Adding to our running SMART goal, our new goal may be, “I will run 1 mile in 1 month.” By adding the timely aspect of 1 month, we create a due date for our goal. We will be better able to stay on track and each day work slowly towards our goal within our newly established timeframe.

 

Utilize the SMART tool when setting goals to help you stay on track and be mindful of your objectives. Contact us if you have any questions or are looking for assistance with setting up or achieving your nutrition, fitness, and wellness goals!


Nutrition 101: Choosing Whole Foods

Nutrition 101: Choosing Whole Foods

Written by: Elizabeth Fay, MS, RD, CNSC

Registered Dietitian, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician

What do we mean when we say, “choose whole foods”? We encourage you to choose foods that are minimally processed, in their natural form. Whole foods usually contain the food’s original carbohydrate, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For example, we would encourage choosing a whole apple instead of apple sauce or apple pie. As you can see, the more processed a food is, the farther away it becomes from its whole food source. Processing typically means the addition of salt, sugar, fat, and/or preservatives. With more fiber and less sugar, sodium, and fat, whole foods typically keep you full longer and maintain better blood sugar and blood pressure control.

 

Even fruits and vegetables have their versions of whole and processed foods. As we know, whole fruit and vegetables are the typical ones we think about: oranges, peppers, grapes, eggplant, onion, spinach, strawberries, etc. However, there are some less healthful options for these fruits and vegetables. For example, spinach in your salad or in your tuna wrap is much more nutritious than a spinach and artichoke dip. Sautéed onions in your pasta or casserole provide natural fiber and vitamin C, while fried onion rings lose much of their nutrition and have added salt and unhealthful fats. Fruits can also have their whole and processed versions. Whole fruits such as peaches and pears are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, so choose fresh or frozen most often instead of canned peaches and pears in heavy syrup.

 

You will hear us encourage you to choose whole grains. Whole grains are exactly what they sound like; grains in their entire, unprocessed form. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, oatmeal, and popcorn. These foods are complete and contain the three parts of the grain: bran, germ, and endosperm. We receive the benefits of whole grains because these grains ensure you receive the plant’s fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. On the other hand, enriched or refined grains are not considered whole grains. Examples of enriched or refined grains include white rice, white bread, enriched spaghetti, pretzels, and saltine crackers. These grains have the bran and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm. Unfortunately, with the bran and germ omitted, much of the fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals are also depleted. Choose oatmeal instead of sugar-sweetened cereal at breakfast and select farro instead of white rice for your favorite soup recipe.

 

You may be wondering which whole foods we should choose in the protein group. The protein food group contains a wider range of foods from chicken and eggs to beef and beans. Within the protein group, select foods that are the least processed. For example, choose grilled chicken over fried chicken nuggets. Sprinkle beans on your salad instead of adding sliced deli meats. Top your pasta dish with ground turkey instead of turkey sausage add then add some flavor by using fresh or dried herbs such as basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Choose grilled tofu instead of fried tofu for your stir-fry. Select whole almonds as a snack instead of salted almond butter.

 

Each food group has a range of foods from unprocessed to processed. Whole foods in the dairy food group are just the same. Unsweetened, plain Greek yogurt is an excellent whole food choice, rich in protein, calcium, and phosphorus. If you find unsweetened plain yogurt a bit too bitter for your taste, add a sprinkle of cinnamon with frozen berries on top! Processed foods in the dairy food group include frozen yogurt, sliced processed cheese, and sugar-sweetened chocolate soy milk.

 

If it seems like choosing whole foods increases your meal prep or cooking time, keep in mind that Nuleeu offers easy-to-prepare, nutritious recipes and meal plans. Cooking in bulk and freezing leftovers helps to put that extra effort in the kitchen to good use! If your dinner calls for quinoa, cook extra and take the leftovers in a veggie bowl for lunch the next day, or freeze for a quick weeknight stir fry. Knowing that you are choosing whole foods most often without added salt, sugar, and preservatives, will help to maximize your nutrition. Surprisingly, sometimes whole foods require less time and effort in the kitchen when compared to processed foods. Back to our apple example, if you’re craving something sweet for dessert, slicing an apple and sprinkling it with cinnamon and nutmeg is a quick and delicious snack. On the other hand, preparing an apple pie or crisp takes much more time in the kitchen. The key to good nutrition is balance and moderation. Invest in your health by choosing minimally processed, whole foods most often to provide your body with the most nutrient-dense foods. Meet with your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian to discuss individual meal plans to help you incorporate more whole foods.